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Social Anxiety Disorder 101

Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is characterized by an almost crippling fear of social situations. Next, Flo dives into this mental health condition and gives more information on ways to control it.

It’s perfectly normal to get nervous about certain things; for instance, giving a big presentation or going on a first date. However, when an individual is experiencing social anxiety disorder, they’re dealing with more than just butterflies in their stomach. 

They may develop intense feelings of self-consciousness, fear, and embarrassment from everyday interactions because they’re afraid of being judged by others. This kind of stress and social anxiety might lead them to avoid certain circumstances (disrupting work, school, and other activities in the process).

What is social anxiety disorder? Social anxiety is a chronic condition that affects your mental health. However, medication and the use of specific coping skills might help you regain self-confidence and improve your ability to interact with others.

Social anxiety disorder usually starts during the early to mid-teen years, though it can present in childhood or adulthood.

Behavioral and emotional symptoms of social anxiety

Signs of social anxiety disorder may include:

  • Constant worrying about humiliating or embarrassing yourself
  • Extreme fear of talking or interacting with strangers
  • Avoiding activities that could be embarrassing in any way 
  • Fear that others will notice your anxiety
  • Concern over developing physical symptoms from social anxiety disorder, including sweating, blushing, trembling, and a shaky voice
  • Avoiding circumstances where you’d be the center of attention (or where others might judge you) 
  • Anxiety over an upcoming event or activity
  • Entering a social situation with extreme apprehensiveness
  • Analyzing the way you present yourself and identifying mistakes
  • Expecting the worst possible outcome from an adverse social experience

Physical social anxiety disorder symptoms

Physical symptoms occasionally appear alongside signs of social anxiety, such as:

  • Blushing
  • Trembling
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling that your mind has gone blank

Commonly avoided circumstances when you’re experiencing social anxiety disorder include:

  • Interacting with strangers 
  • Attending social gatherings or parties
  • Going to school or work
  • Initiating conversations
  • Dating
  • Making direct eye contact
  • Entering a room where people are already sitting down
  • Returning products to the store
  • Using a public restroom
  • Eating in front of others

Symptoms of social anxiety may change over time, and although they could appear to improve when you avoid undesirable situations, relief is only temporary. Flare-ups can occur due to stress, and social anxiety disorder will most likely persist without proper treatment.

Similar to other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder is the product of complex interactions between environmental and biological factors, including:

  • Genetics 

It’s possible for social anxiety disorder to run in the family. However, it’s unclear as to what proportion is the result of learned behaviors versus biology.

  • Brain structure

A specific part of your brain, known as the amygdala, controls your fear response. An overactive amygdala could trigger excessive anxiety in social circumstances.

  • Environment

Social anxiety may also be a type of learned behavior, which, for some, presented itself after an embarrassing or unpleasant social situation. Furthermore, a possible link exists between the development of social anxiety disorder and overprotective or controlling parents.

A wide variety of factors might make you more susceptible to displaying social anxiety disorder, such as:

  • Family history

The likelihood of having social anxiety disorder is increased if you have a family history of the condition, particularly if your biological parents or siblings have it.

  • Negative experiences

Children who encounter bullying, teasing, ridicule, or humiliation are more likely to demonstrate social anxiety disorder. Other adverse events like abuse, trauma, or family conflict could also be to blame.

  • Temperament

The rate of social anxiety disorder is higher in children who are timid, withdrawn, shy, or restrained when facing new people or situations.

  • New work or social demands

Social anxiety disorder symptoms usually appear during adolescence, but meeting new people or giving a speech or presentation can trigger them initially.

  • Speak with a healthcare specialist. 
  • Try to better understand your anxiety and fear by analyzing your thoughts and behaviors in social situations.
  • Replace your unreasonable and unrealistic thoughts with rational ones.
  • Avoid focusing on how others see you, and remember that your symptoms of social anxiety aren’t as obvious as you think.
  • Begin doing activities that you normally avoid, starting small and gradually working your way up.

Treatment of social anxiety disorder depends on how much the symptoms of social anxiety affects your daily activities. Psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling), medications, or both are typical approaches to tackling social anxiety disorder.

You’re taught to recognize and change negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. You’ll also learn confidence-building skills to help you feel more at ease in social circumstances.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is among the most effective form of psychotherapy for social anxiety. It’s equally effective when applied individually or in a group.

There’s a wide array of medications available for treating social anxiety disorder. However, doctors usually use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as the first line of defense against persistent social anxiety symptoms.

To lower your chances of an adverse reaction, your doctor might start with a low dose and gradually increase it. It could take weeks to months before you notice any improvement. Other drugs prescribed for social anxiety disorder symptoms include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or beta-blockers.

Aside from fighting symptoms of social anxiety with the help of a medical professional, you can also try the following techniques on your own:

  • Develop skills to reduce stress
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Get enough sleep every night
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Limit your intake of caffeine or cut it out altogether
  • Take part in social activities by interacting with people you’re comfortable with

Consult your doctor if you suspect you have social anxiety symptoms, particularly if they’re impacting your daily life. Although it’s difficult to ask for help, keep in mind that it’s a common problem, and you’re not alone. They’ll likely inquire about your behaviors, feelings, and other symptoms to determine whether you have social anxiety disorder.

If appropriate, they may refer you to a mental health expert who can do a full assessment and recommend appropriate treatments.

Social anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition in which everyday interactions cause intense fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and self-consciousness. Social anxiety disorder might lead you to avoid social events and disrupt your life. It’s important to ask your doctor for help with managing its symptoms.




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